His Eminence (abbreviation H.Em.) is a style of reference for high nobility, still in use in various religious contexts.
A longer, and more formal, title is "His (or Your when addressing the cardinal directly) Most Reverend Eminence".[a]
When the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the head of state of their sovereign territorial state comprising the island of Malta until 1797, who had already been made a Reichsfürst (i.e., prince of the Holy Roman Empire) in 1607, became (in terms of honorary order of precedence, not in the actual church hierarchy of ordained ministers) the most senior official after the most junior member of the cardinals in 1630, he was also awarded the hybrid style His Most Eminent Highness (abbreviation HMEH) to recognize his status as a type of Prince of the Church. The Prince and Grand Master of the contemporary Sovereign Military Order of Malta is still styled His Most Eminent Highness. Styles such as "His Grand Eminence" or "His Eminent Grace" amongst others were used as well, some formalized by the pope or other powers, such as monarchs. However, many others were simply the personal preference of the cardinal and by the merit of other earthly offices.
While the term is shunned by many individuals of other faiths or denominations of Christianity, the title is officially maintained in international diplomacy without regard for its doctrinal, philosophical and theological origins.
Eastern Orthodox Church
Archbishops in the Eastern Orthodox Church are addressed with the styles of "Beatitude" or "Eminence". The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is styled "His All-Holiness", and so is, exceptionally, the Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaloniki. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antiochia and Jerusalem ("His Most Godly Beatitude"), as well as the Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian patriarchs are referred to as "His Holiness", while Romanian Patriarchs are referred to as "His Beatitude". Patriarch of Georgian Orthodox Church is a unique exception, being addressed as "His Holiness and Beatitude".
In Oriental Orthodoxy bishops holding the rank of metropolitan are referred to as "His Eminence". In Syriac Orthodox Church the Catholicose of India who is also the Maphrian of the East is referred to as "His Beatitude Catholicose".
It is also used, informally (perhaps as a rendering of an oriental style), in Islam for highly honorable religious leaders. For example, an Ayatollah or Marja' in Shia, Imam of the Sunni Barelwi school of thought, Moulana Syed Madani Mia, is often addressed with this title, along with individuals such as Moulana Khushtar Siddiqi of Mauritius, although these titles are, in essence, unofficial. Beyond this, the traditional rulers of the sub-national states of the Fulani, Hausa, Nupe and Kanuri peoples of Nigeria use the style as an alternative to the HRH style that is usually used by the country's royal monarchs, highlighting by so doing their positions as spiritual as well as temporal leaders.
- Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. .